Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Trivial Matters

Listening to Pretty Boy tonight as his mother was putting him to bed, I realized that, as developing humans, we learn how to cry before we learn how to smile or laugh.  Does that mean something or am I just tired?

Moving on...Recently, when I've told people about Hasebe's injury woes, I've been surprised to find many of them brush it off with such words as, "Yeah, I would feel bad for him, but then I remember how much money he makes."  Or when I was in a car with some coworkers and we passed some people begging, people made such comments as, "They don't know what real hunger is.  No one in America has any idea what real poverty is."  Or when anyone I know is going through a hard time, there is the inclination to point out, "Well, you did choose this."

These comments surprised me.  Comments from people I respect and admire.  Let's face it: anyone who even bothers to listen to me talk about Hasebe is an indication of how nice they are.  But to return with such a comment just left me feeling, well, disappointed.

Yes, Hasebe makes a couple million dollars a year (I'm guessing here) playing soccer (much more, if you count endorsements.)  Yes, people in America, even the poorest of the poor, will probably never experience the extreme starvation as in other countries.  And yes, our choices can lead us into challenging circumstances.

But I'm confused.  Why do I need to check someone's bank account balance before I decide to show compassion?  Why do we need to make sure someone is in the worst circumstances possible before we give them the time of day?

I realized something during my time as a graduate student: people trivialize graduate school.  It was hard for me.  I can't even put words into how hard it was for me.  It was a battle and the wounds are still healing, the scars are still bright red.  When I talked about it with other people, I would look them in the eyes as I spoke and realize: they had no idea what I was going through.  Meanwhile, their eyes would be filled with worry about other things: jobs, families, law school, undergraduate degrees, getting asked out on a date, adopting a puppy, the list goes on.  I found, during grad school, especially during my last semester, when someone started to tell me about their stressful life, that I would instinctively start to roll my eyes and think to myself, "I'm getting a PhD and you're trying to tell me your life is stressful?"  I was doing the same thing they were doing to me.  I had no idea what they were going through; I was trivializing their experiences.   When I realized I was doing this, I decided to stop.

I resolved that one lesson I wanted to take from graduate school, IF NOTHING ELSE, was to respect those around me enough that I gave their hopes and dreams and trials and challenges equal weight to my own.  That when they told me life was hard, that I would believe them and not compare it to mine or try to compare it to someone else.  That I would be in that moment with that person and just listen, at the very least.  But hopefully, I would also have compassion and respect.

Five months after graduate school, I'm still not good at it.  I thought I understood parenthood a little since I help with Pretty Boy, but since I started this 40 hour a week job, I've gained a whole new respect for mothers and fathers, people with jobs, and people without jobs.  I've learned tired comes in many different forms and, recently, I've experienced a new kind of one.  I have the privilege of leaving Pretty Boy in his parents' capable hands for the weekend and returning to singleness and sleeping in and long Saturday runs but it's a privilege that makes me more grateful for Pretty Boy's parents, and my nieces' parents and my own parents.

Life is a serious experience for all of us.  I'm trying to remember that.  I want to do better.

CS Lewis sums it up nicely: There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit... (The Weight of Glory) 

1 comment:

  1. Babies actually smile in the womb, long before they're able to cry. So that's neat! Whether it's anything more than stretching face muscles is unknown though.